Saturday, December 17, 2011

Countdown to Dubai

We're ready.  Oh, so ready to jump on a plane and head to a place where there is good food, clean streets and shops.  We're spending Christmas in an Islamic country and in a city that is the polar opposite to any city in Ethiopia.  We're heading to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and we can't wait.

But before we head off on Dec 21st, I had one more trip around town with Gebrai, my bajaj driver.  We went to a different market and once again, I was the focus of much attention.  As I got out of the bajaj, I heard "faranji...faranji...(foreigner)"  Even the smallest children called out "faranji".  I smiled, turned to everyone, and made a deep curtsey and waved.  Everyone smiled, laughed, and waved back.  Sometimes I shout out "habbishat" which means Ethiopian and they are always shocked that I know the word.
Bags of cotton

Spices...popcorn...beans...and a whole lot of things I don't know
In June 1998, Eritrea bombed a school in Mekele, killing 11 students, 2 adults and a baby, which caused an escalation in the war between the two countries.  The school is still in use, and we stopped by to see it.  Children came running to shake my hand and have their pictures taken.

The kids proudly showed me their schoolwork

Above and below: A memorial of plants honor those who were killed in the bombing.

School children doing their work outside the gate.  My bajaj is in the background.

A typical neighborhood with stone houses.  I think this would be a classified as a working class area.
Our bajaj driver, Gebrai, is such a huge help to Roger and to me.  When Roger's truck is in the field, he uses Gebrai to pick up supplies and to drive him around --- and with me, he is a tour guide, a driver, and a body guard.  We pay him well, and he is very appreciative.  This week, he called to say he was at our gate and when I went to see him, he had a pizza and french fries for us as a gift to say thank you for paying him so generously.  This, from a young man that probably works 16 hour days...everyday...and on a good day makes $20.

I don't think this is a Pizza Hut franchise but a little license was taken with the name!
The pizza was really good, so I had Gebrai show me where the restaurant was located.  I got a kick out of seeing the Pizza Hut sign.... I guess there was something good that came out of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia....pasta and pizza became part of the food scene.  Thank goodness.

One of the best gifts we've received in the last few years is a travel Scrabble game from our friends the Slaters.  When Roger and I spent several weeks boating in 2007 we played a lot of Scrabble, and this gift got us going again.  We keep a tally of wins and losses and it's been a good past time as well as keeping our grey matter firing on most cylinders.
Playing Scrabble outside --- the laundry basins double as our patio furniture!
So, we're off to the glitz and glamour of Dubai....a place that was never on our "should go to" list.  But it is now.  I've booked tickets to go up the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, and for a half day dune buggy safari in the desert.  There are movies to be seen, food to be eaten, and a few things to be purchased.  In the midst of it all, Christmas will be celebrated.

To all of our friends and family near and far - may we send our wishes for the happiest of the holiday season.  We miss you, and look forward to when our paths cross again.

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. 
                                                                 - Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

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